The speed at which technology evolves is both amazing and terrifying. Just when we take the plunge and buy something new to enhance our satisfying retirement, the upgraded model is already been released. I read a few days ago that up to 33% of all adults will be using tablets, like iPads and Kindles within four years. Considering that the very first iPad was made available less than two years ago, that is incredible.
This shift in how our lives are directly and deeply impacted by technology got me thinking about the things that seemed so normal when we were growing up. Today, most of our citizens would feel severely deprived if they had to live with:
Only 3 TV channels. ABC, CBS, and NBC were it when I was young. We were not the first to have a TV in our neighborhood. I remember running down the street to watch The Howdy Doody Show at a friend's home...on a 13" screen. Today even "basic" cable has 22 choices!
Beta, then VHS tape. Our growing family choose the loser, Beta. Then, we spent months copying those tapes to VHS. Digital? Hadn't been invented yet. Remember sitting down to watch a movie and finding out someone hadn't rewound the tape from the last time? Or, the movie you wanted was in the middle of the tape and there was no search function? Streaming movies? Nope. No Internet!
No computers. I am not so old that I used an abacus, but I remember when having a small calculator for balancing a checkbook was a big deal. Occasionally we'd see a picture of a room-sized "super computer" but no one could imagine what it did or how it would ever be part of a normal person's life.
Pay Phones. Always leave home with several dimes (then quarters) in case you had to call someone during an emergency. Pay phones, undamaged and with a full phone book were as common as blue mailboxes (Oh, there's another thing that is virtually gone!). The idea of being in touch 24/7 would have seemed ludicrous. Who is that important?
Long distance train travel instead of airplanes. Taking 2 days to get to Florida instead of 4 hours. Planning a trip to include sleeping and eating while the country and city view rolled by your window. Not having to take off part of your clothing to travel and railroad employees who treated you like a guest, not an inconvenience.
Just one car per family. For most of us, one car was entirely sufficient. Dad went to work while Mom stayed home. She was the chauffeur for after school events, if Dad took the train to work. Otherwise, the kids walked or took a bus. The family went out to dinner or driving vacations together. Whoever got to sit in the front seat was allowed to control the AM radio.
Music on big vinyl discs that get scratched. Learning to pick up a tone arm and put it on the track you wanted in the middle of the record became a necessary skill. The only thing that was burned was toast in the kitchen. The idea of creating your own music disc?.....a daydream. You liked one song you bought a 45 rpm single. You like two songs you bought the entire album.
Neighborhood specialty stores. A big box store was a store that sold moving boxes. While there were some larger supermarkets in bigger towns and cities, they could be quite a drive away. 7-11 or Circle K didn't exist, so filling in the shopping gaps took place at a local general type store that handled more than just food. But, if tools or duct tape were needed a small hardware store would be your destination. Gas stations only sold gas, not sandwiches, cold drinks, and candy. Selections of most products were rather limited and out-of-season fruits and vegetables were generally unavailable year round.
No ATM Machines. If you were low on cash you made a trip to a local bank, you talked with a real teller while she (few male tellers!) cashed your check. If cash ran short on weekends, then you didn't spend it because there was no way to get any more.
Vacations that involved mostly sitting, talking, or napping. Many of us spent the family vacation at the beach, or at a church camp in the woods. Others would pile in the family station wagon and visit relatives. I spent many joyous summers on my grandfather's summer "farm", a two story home and barn on 36 acres about 2 hours north of Pittsburgh. There was no electricity and no running water. All we had to keep us busy for two weeks was our imagination and helping grandad repair something that needed fixing. The outhouse was down the path and the kerosene latterns were all we needed to have someone read us a story before bed. And the hammock was always occupied.
I could continue with another page or two, but I bet I've stimulated some memories of yours. What do you remember growing up with that no longer exists, or most younger folks would think belongs in a museum? Are we better off with the newer "models?" In many cases, yes. But, there are parts of our lives growing up that younger folks will never experience and that's too bad. My satisfying retirement is certainly built on some of the things that are no longer part of our world.